In a little over two months, Americans from East to West will head to the polls to vote on the issue of legalized marijuana. Alaska and Oregon could be the next states to legalize weed for recreational purposes, while the District of Columbia aims to legalize the leaf on a similar level, but without the existence of a legal retail market. In addition, 14 cities across Michigan will vote to decriminalize marijuana for adults 21 and older, which some predict could posture the state to become one of the first in the Midwest to legalize the leaf for recreational purposes.
Here is a closer look at what your pot-friendly lawmakers were up to last week:
Illinois: Medical Marijuana Applications
Last week, Illinois officials announced that patients interested in using the state’s newfound medical marijuana program are able to obtain applications online. Yet, while applicants can use this time to get their paperwork in order, requests will not officially be granted until September. In addition, three public meetings have been scheduled to help potential cultivation centers and dispensaries better understand the regulations behind the program. The first meeting took place in Chicago last week, with more than 500 people in attendance.
California: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson Will Support Right Initiative
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson announced last week that he is prepared to side with a ballot measure to legalize marijuana in 2016… but only if it is “the right initiative.”
"The 'right initiative' would be one that addresses age limits -- he doesn't want to see the drug in the hands of kids -- one that addresses advertising, driving under the influence," said Andrea Koskey, who works as Newsom’s communication director. "He'd like to see questions answered on taxation -- whether there are different taxes for medical marijuana or recreational use –- banking, whether it can be used in the home, and the kind of restrictions for use in public, as some among many more questions that we don't have answers to yet."
Calling himself a “coward” during the days of Proposition 19, Newson says he admires those who recognized the failed war on drugs and got behind this initiative. “I support moving in a new direction; taxing, regulating for adults this drug in a thoughtful way that does our best to keep it out of the hands of our children,” he said.
California: Medical Marijuana Bill Dead
A measure to impose statewide restrictions on California’s medical marijuana program failed to gain enough momentum to survive this year. Senate Bill 1262 was blocked by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now must wait until next year for another chance. Although a significant number of law enforcement and city officials backed the bill, it received some resistance from drug reform advocates. In addition to controversies surrounding the proposal not being a remedy for the program’s current issues, officials felt the $20 billion price tag was entirely too much to grant immediate approval. Legislators will have an opportunity to try again in 2015.
Maine: South Portland to Vote on Decriminalization
It was announced earlier last week that the South Portland City Council approved an initiative that will allow voters to decide on the issue of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, an effort that neighboring Portland successfully pulled off last year. The measure, which was supported by the Marijuana Policy Project, collected 1,500 valid voter signatures and is now set to be put to a vote in November.
Nevada: Dispensaries Could Open in 2015
There is a distinct possibility that Nevada’s medical marijuana dispensaries could be open by 2015. Last week, Medical Marijuana Bureau Chief Chad Westom said that pending local approval, some of the chosen 66 dispensaries could be operational as early as next year. The state must first decide on which dispensaries will receive a license, which officials say should be done by November 3.
Oklahoma: Medical Marijuana Petition Fails
Despite rumors of encouraging momentum, a measure to put the issue of medical marijuana on the November ballot failed to collect the required signatures. The Secretary of State’s Office announced last week that the initiative only managed to collect 75,384 of the 155,216 required signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot. The group is now forced to retool and try again in 2015.
New Mexico: Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative Certified
Earlier last week, the Santa Fe City Clerk announced that an initiative to decriminalize marijuana has received enough valid signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot. This will make the first time in the history of the state that citizens have been given the opportunity to vote on changes to the marijuana laws. The Reducing Marijuana Penalties Campaign turned in over 11,000 signatures in just over 50 days, which was more than double the required amount needed to become certified for the ballot.
“The sheer number of supporters who signed the petition shows that the citizens of Santa Fe are ready for a change in how we police marijuana in our city and they are ready to make history,” Emily Kaltenbach, State Director, Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement. “Santa Feans want and can put an end to using tax payers’ dollars that could otherwise be used by law enforcement on more pressing crime; put an end to policies that scar low-level marijuana users with a serious criminal history that can prevent them from obtaining scholarships, future job placement and a prosperous future; and, put an end to racially disproportionate marijuana arrests.”
If the measure is voted in, the penalties associated with minor pot possession (an ounce or less) will be stripped away and replaced with a $25 fine.
Albuquerque: Ballot Measure to Decriminalize Pot Successful
It was determined last week by the Albuquerque City Council that an initiative aimed at reducing the penalties of the city’s decriminalization law will head to the November ballot. The city council voted 5-4 to pass the measure after supporters of the initiative failed to gather enough signatures. If it passes, anyone caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana will be slapped with a $25 fine instead of the current $50 and two weeks in jail.
Ohio: Toledo Missed Filing Deadline
Although several weeks ago, an initiative to decriminalize marijuana in Toledo was turned in with more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, the County Board of Elections has since told supporters that they failed to meet the deadline. The local chapter of NORML turned in the signatures at the beginning of the month, but there was conflict regarding a meeting that sabotaged apparently sabotaged the process. Plans are being made to try again in 2015.
Delaware: Medical Marijuana Compassion Center Announced
Delaware officials recently announced the approval if its pilot medical marijuana dispensary -- First State Compassion Center. The dispensary will be located in an industrial complex near Wilmington and will begin to grow marijuana later this year.
Colorado: City Council Sandbagging Recreational Marijuana in Colorado Springs
Members of the Colorado Springs City Council said last week that they need two weeks to make a decision on whether or not to put the issue of allowing recreational pot sales up to a vote next spring. Unfortunately, the slow moving nature of the council could stymie the initiative by preventing supporters from gathering the required signatures. The council is expected to meet again on August 25 to discuss the issue.
Kansas: Wichita Not Giving Up on Decriminalization
The petition to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Wichita is 47 voters shy of receiving approval for the November ballot. However, supporters are still working to ensure they have a fighting chance. Although the city is pressing to put the issue in front of voters during the spring election, there are some concerns that the county election office may have missed some votes when tallying the last the current count. Supporters have since demanded a recount in hopes that the latest figures will reveal better news.
Arkansas: Medical Marijuana in 2016?
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act last week, so that it can appear on the ballot in 2016. The Initiative will now begin collecting signatures. “We have more than 600 volunteers across the state who are preparing to gather signatures starting in just a few weeks,” Melissa Fults, Campaign Director for the AMCA told 5 News Online.
This is one of two marijuana-related measures that been approved for the 2016 ballot. A third, was rejected last week by the state Attorney General due to ambiguities and “misleading tendencies.”
Supporters of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act were aiming to get their initiative on November ballot measure in 2014, but did not manage to collect all of the required signatures.